Stephen Baker

The Boost
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In Africa

February 11, 2013General


I'm in South Africa, on a short trip I decided to take, literally, from one day to the next. We went to Kruger Park yesterday and this morning, and this leopard is the first animal we saw.  We didn't see another cat the whole time, in part because the summer grass, as you can see, is high. 

It occurred to me as I looked at this picture that the pattern recognition required to perceive a the head of leopard behind that grass comes naturally to humans--and would be exceedingly hard for computers. Spotting potential predators hiding in the grass was vital for our ancestors. And even if we spend 99.9% of our days in cities or suburbs, that uncanny ability has been handed down to us.

I should note that a tour guide spotted this animal. We stopped when we saw his halted bus, and he pointed it out to us. So despite our ability to see a leopard through the grass, we probably wouldn't have seen this one on our own. When it comes to some of these survival skills, we're a little rusty.

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